Zhou Xiaohu is a pioneer of video animation in China. His work is infused with a keen humour and delight in visual play and punning. Although originally trained as an oil painter, he began using computers as an artistic tool in 1997. He has since experimented with stop-frame video animation, video installation and computer gaming software; the element of creating layers of images between moving pictures and real objects has become his signature style.
The Gooey Gentleman is a fantasy featuring the artist’s own body as the stage upon which a hand-drawn story unfolds. Playing with the theme of fatal attraction between the sexes, Xiaohu tells a tale of sexual chemistry via an animated drawing that is alternately inscribed across his chest and that of a female counterpart. In presenting a Barbie-like ideal of womankind, Xiaohu makes no apology for the natural urges and fantasies of his sex. To the deliberately stilted soundtrack of a famous Shanghainese love song, he humorously illustrates the timeless antics of lovers engaged in the mating game. Deceptively simple, this immensely charming work remains one of Xiaohu’s most accomplished pieces.
In the new work Self Defence, Xiaohu references a leading topic of our times, and one that has direct implications for at least fifty per cent of the population—the female half. It reflects, like The Gooey Gentleman, on personal experiences that, whilst articulated in a specifically Chinese context, have a universal reach. In his inimitable fashion, Xiaohu uses humour in the work to articulate weighty issues in ways that are both familiar and easily understood. Although the new work is not addressed exclusively to womankind, it is highly sensitive to the issue that Self-Defence seeks to expose, including societal change and what is considered acceptable behaviour for the female sex. In this sense, the expert trouncing of the male offenders by the ‘star’ of the work is very much a contemporary story. Whilst the work appears to play for laughs, the artist’s intention and choice of media is more serious, as Xiaohu explains: ‘Consumerism and entertainment have overtaken the political nature of the body, so by adopting familiar forms of entertainment and images of hedonism, my goal is to transform these figures into perfect examples of body politics.’